MAYSA LEAK / “A Woman In Love”

maysa leak 14.jpg Is she a Soul singer who sings jazzily, or is she a jazz singer who mainly sings Soul music, or what the.. is she? She’s Maysa Leak and she has one of the most beautiful voices on the planet. Although she has a strong following, major popular stardom has eluded for a number of reasons, one of which is that she is difficult to categorize and nearly impossible to niche market. The music on her albums can range widely from funk to jazz and everything in between and beyond (including opera). Some times she’s the darling of the Quiet Storm format, other times she’s got salsa in her soul and dancing shoes on her feet. She has been the long time leading voice on Incognito originals and has recorded a well-received album of covers of classic Soul music. maysa leak 10.jpg

I have always wanted to go back to my roots and training as a jazz singer. I was trained to sing everything, so I always will. I came up with the concept of mixing the old with the new because I love jazz, soul and R&B so much that it's all one thing to me. —Maysa
This week we’re going to concentrate on the covers side of her new album, A Woman In Love, but first a little background.
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My uncle turned me on to jazz music one day when he told me to turn on PBS to see Al Jarreau because he was scatting. That was it. I was like, ‘I have to do this.’ My mom took me to see Melba Moore when I was six. As soon as Melba Moore opened her mouth in the play ‘Purlie,’ I was like, ‘I don’t think there is anything else I want to do.’ I remember my heart feeling too big for my chest and being extremely excited about what she was doing. And knowing at the point, as six years old, that that was what I was going to do for the rest of my life. —Maysa
Maysa Leak was born August 16, 1966 in Baltimore, Maryland. She graduated from Morgan State University in 1991. That same year she joined Stevie Wonder’s singers, Wonderlove and recorded with Stevie on the Jungle Fever soundtrack album. Stevie was the person who encouraged her to express her individual voice. maysa leak 12.jpg
Stevie took us out to see one of Chaka's shows and during her concert she invited fans to come onstage and sing with her. Most of these singers were trying to out-sing Chaka. So she would heckle them. Stevie asked me to go on stage and sing with her. At first I said 'no' but once I decided to get up I knew I had to do something different. So I scatted. When I did that, Chaka said 'Go 'head girl! The whole audience went crazy. Chaka Khan will forever be an influence. Her power and tone have inspired me to develop my own voice and be unique, sweet and powerful, all at the same time. —Maysa
Also in 1991 Maysa did a long-distance telephone audition and was selected by Incognito bandleader Bluey to become their featured vocalist. That led to a long stint as Incognito’s lead singer. The Incognito experience was the defining start to her career as a featured vocalist. maysa leak 09.jpg
Being in Incognito changed my life. Gave me focus, a vision for my career.
When I was a 12 year old in my parents’ basement trying to figure out how I was going to get from the basement floor listening to records to actually singing on stage for a living, I dreamed and visualized it all. Bluey gave me that opportunity and my whole world expanded and my dream came true. I am forever grateful to Incognito for helping me to define my voice,nurturing my musicianship and being an integral part of making me the singer-songwriter/producer I am today. —Maysa In 1995 she released the first of eight solo albums and that brings us to A Woman In Love.
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I was intrigued from the moment I saw the track list. Was she really going to pull off singing standards, jazz classics, R&B, a Michael Jackson cover, and some originals and keep the album coherent and enjoyable? I hate when people play at playing jazz or when jazz musicians fake the funk, or whenever anyone tries to pass themselves off as something they aren’t. At the same time, I understand that there is no reason to restrict yourself, nor should any artist feel constricted or restrained from exploring different avenues of expression. When I heard “Round Midnight” I said, yeah! And what Maysa did with “I Put A Spell On You” let me know that she had indeed found her own voice beyond the beauty of the sound of her voice. Maysa has figured out a distinctive approach, and I really, really dig both her phrasing and her scatting, especially the depth of her improvisations that reveal that she has a keen harmonic ear and a finely tuned melodic sense. But then that should be no surprise if you know who her inspirations are. maysa leak 04.jpg
Sarah Vaughan has been my greatest jazz influence. I patterned my style after her tone and phrasing. Ella Fitzgerald (and later Al Jarreau) influenced my love for the art of scatting but Ella will always be the ‘Queen of Scat’ in my opinion. Billie Holiday influenced my desire and love for moodiness and depth while Dinah Washington inspired me to be classy. And Betty Carter, through her music and performances, taught me to be brave and bold. —Maysa
When you can make inspired and individualized cover versions of old songs from a variety of genres, then you have arrived and fully deserve to be respected as an artist. Maysa Leak is fully in the tradition of great jazz vocalists most of whom gave voice to a wide range of material. Like her predecessors, Maysa takes a standard and renders unto us an extraordinary sound. —Kalamu ya Salaam Maysa Leak – A Woman In Love Playlist maysa leak in love cover.jpg 01 “Willow Weep For Me” 02 “Round Midnight” 03 “The Lady In My Life” 04 “What Are You Doing The  Rest Of Your Life” 05 “I Put A Spell On You” 06 “When I Fall In Love”

This entry was posted on Monday, February 1st, 2010 at 4:04 am and is filed under Cover. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

One Response to “MAYSA LEAK / “A Woman In Love””

jenny Says:
February 6th, 2010 at 2:35 pm

Nice review. I’m loving the Woman in Love!

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